image via Gulf News
In April 2018, Saudi Arabia announced its first-ever 10-kilometer cycling race for women, which took place in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and saw 30 female cyclists compete as part of the “Be Active” initiative, part of Saudi Arabia’s tribute to World Health Day 2018. This year, 25 Saudi women from the Jeddah Women Cyclist group are continuing this culture of women conquering the city’s streets by bike. Donning cycling helmets and kneecaps over their sports abayas, members of the group are often found riding on the newly built cycling track along Jeddah’s stunning Red Sea coastline, as reported by Gulf News.
The founder of the collective is Nadima Abu Lanayin, a high-school student who credits her mother for teaching and instilling a lifelong love for cycling in her from a very young age. As a child, the now 18-year-old spent her days cycling within the walls of her compound and at nearby parks, all the while dreaming of the day she would establish the Kingdom’s first ladies cycling community.
image via Gulf News
Speaking to the news site, Abu Lanayin said, “The feeling of cycling together under the Saudi skyline is indescribable. It’s such a freeing feeling. You are just on the cycling track yet you feel you can go anywhere you want,” said Abu Lanayin, adding that she had always wanted girls and women to get out of their homes and onto the streets to give cycling a try because of its many health benefits, as well as the feeling of freedom it gives.
With her parents blessing and support, Abu Lanayin founded the cycling community two years ago at the age of 16, creating an Instagram page where she shares photos and videos of herself cycling with her mom and siblings to encourage others to follow suit. Today, the page has over 7,000 followers and the cycling group has 500 active members. Prior to each cycling trip, members coordinate on the route, time, and place via a WhatsApp group. The women of the Jeddah Women Cyclist group can be seen at the recently-built cycling tracks near the seaside or at the Al Johara Stadium, or any other location where traffic is low, some cycling a few kilometers, others up to 25 km, and pros up to 50.
Abu Lanayin spends her weeks juggling both her studies and leading the cycling group, no small task for a young woman still in high school but as she explained to the news site, the pride she feels in creating and continuing this community of female cyclists has made it worthwhile.